Historic Leesburg relaxes nightlife noise restrictions

Empty sidewalk in historic downtown Leesburg, Virginia.
Leesburg restaurant and bar owners in the now-empty historic downtown have argued the 8 p.m. curfew noise restrictions have made it impossible to brand the town as a nighttime destination. Noise rules have been tweaked this week. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Historic Leesburg, Virginia’s now-shuttered bars and restaurants will get a weekend boost as the town council voted to make changes to its noise regulations, in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

Not everyone is cheering loudly.

By a 4-3 vote Tuesday, the council approved a number of changes, including extending the time for amplified outdoor music to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Currently, the plug has to be pulled at 8 p.m., seven days a week.

The town’s restaurants and businesses have long-argued the 8 p.m. noise curfew was outdated and hampered Leesburg’s attempts to bolster its nightlife.

However, Mayor Kelly Burk and council members Tom Dunn and Suzanne Fox voted against relaxing the restrictions.

Dunn said unless Leesburg police strictly enforce the 10 p.m. sound restrictions, people who live within earshot of the downtown area will be affected.

“I think we’re going to have unhappy residents, unhappy businesses, and if the police get dragged in, unhappy officers,” said Dunn.

A business must apply for a permit, 48 hours before hosting outdoor music, with the permit valid for a year.

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On the issue of penalties, the council compromised with a six-month cancellation of the permit, if a business gets two written summons from Leesburg police.

Burk had argued for a tougher penalty: “You get one, and you should be done.”

Council member Neil Steinberg, who voted to approve the changes, acknowledged the issue of noise has long reverberated in Leesburg, which was established in 1758, and is the seat of the Loudoun county government.

“It’s a compromise at best,” Steinberg said. “We’re not going to make everybody happy.”

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